Headline, Hints or Storyteller? What’s your communication style?

Soft SkillsCommunication is the basis for all workplace success.

Thankfully, it’s a tool every manager can afford. It fits your budget.

As managers we really have no good excuse for not having at least an adequate supply of communication sitting around someplace. It’s putting it to good use that takes some effort.

(If you haven’t seen communication for a while, or wonder who had it last, ask around. Somebody knows where it is.)

In day-to-day work interactions, one of the reasons good communication gets lost is clashing communication styles. Clashing styles – as opposed to actual ideas – can cause so much turmoil that people just stop talking to one another altogether.

You're Fired!
Here are three major communications styles. Which are you?

Pick your style

The Headline.

The Hints.

The Storyteller.

Here’s an example of how those clashing styles play out, courtesy of Carol Browser, president of Conflict Management Strategies. Here is the story Carol likes to tell.

Consider two employees who are embroiled in conflict.

One guy says: “He is just driving me crazy. Every time I ask a question, every time I say to him ‘just tell me what’s going on’ and ‘ just give me the bullet points,’ he just starts rambling on and rambling on. I don’t understand what he wants and it’s driving me nuts and taking too much energy to figure out.”

Sound familiar? It is the classic example of a Headline person vs. a Storyteller.

“We love people who have the same communication styles as us,” Carol says, and “those who have different styles annoy us endlessly.

“Headline people, they talk in bullet points,” she explained. “They use short, clipped sentences. They will say phrases like ‘the point is’ and ‘the bottom line is’ or ‘what I’m trying to say is.’”

The second communication styles is the Hints crowd. They never directly ask for what they want, or say exactly what it is they believe.

“They’ll say ‘what do you think’ or ‘what do you want,’” Carol explained. “They’ll say ‘tell me what you would like to see happen’ or ‘tell me what you think we should do.’”

Some other phrasing common to the Hint crowd is “wouldn’t it be nice if” and “wouldn’t’ it be a good idea if.”

“For the Hint person, this is really what they WANT to do,” she says. “But they couch it so much that they don’t get their point across. They leave it so open that others can simply reply, ‘No, I don’t think it’s a good idea,’ and walk away and nothing gets agreed upon.”

Hope you’re not in a hurry

Finally, there is the Storyteller. Have a seat. This could take a while.

“These people will give you huge amounts of background,” Carol warns. “A Storyteller may or may not even know what the main point is they want to get across. They know there is something they want to talk about, and they’ll give you lots of detail and lots of background.”

The challenge is that if you interrupt, the Storyteller will get frustrated and just start over again.

“They will start over again and again, each time you interrupt them,” Carol said, “until they just get frustrated and they abandoned the idea entirely so they never ever have to address it again.”

The fix is to help people recognize the different communications styles to determine whether they are a Headline, Hint or Storyteller, and what is the style of those they communicate with.

“The best leaders are chameleons who can change their communications styles to fit the situation.”

Moral: The real cost of communication doesn’t come from using it, but from NOT using it.

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